After two failed attempts and millions of pounds spent on players in the aftermath,
Manchester City have finally made the last 16 of the Champions League.
However it’s the starting XI used in the home game against CSKA Moscow that should have been a major talking point. Sadly for English football, it was not. After nearly three weeks, nobody batted an eye lid.
Zero. The number of English players in Manchester City’s starting XI. Not a single player eligible to represent England’s senior national team or youth teams at international level. Manchester City, an English club with no English players, representing the English league in the Champions League.
It happened in the English domestic league on Saturday as well. Something is not right. They won’t be the first club in Europe to do so, which should be pointed out. They haven’t broken or violated any rules, Manuel Pellegrini picked his best XI from the squad of players at his disposal. It must be stressed that Manchester City have done what’s best for them, which is normal for any club.
Greg Dyke’s recently assembled commission of enquiry into the state of English football should raise a few eyebrows. Whilst pin-pointing issues in youth development, the number of local players playing in the Premier League, quality of youth coaching, the number of coaches, the technical and tactical shortcomings of English players, it’s the culture that needs to change as Manchester City’s fielding if a foreign XI has almost gone uncriticised, in fact, almost unnoticed.
Something like this will not aid English football, especially on a night when the Spanish, German and Italian teams all had a handful of local players all in their starting XI’s. The English national team won’t improve if players are not playing in the the best league in the world - the UEFA Champions League.
A foreign XI representing a club in Spain, Italy or Germany would cause an uproar in the country concerned. Pundits on television, journalists in the sports newspapers and sports sections of conventional newspapers, internet forums, social media, conversations in local bars would be filled with people up-in-arms over such team selections.
Supporters, Presidents, Sporting Directors of rival clubs would not turn down the opportunity to publicly criticise their local rivals for “selling out”, selling their identity, abandoning their roots for a foreign XI. The club fielding the foreign XI would be publicly-blamed for the national team’s failure in any international tournament – youth or senior level- in which the team representing the nation were expected to win.
It wouldn’t be one or two people lamenting the foreign XI it would be anyone not associated with the club in question which doesn’t happen in England where it’s the odd person here and there raising the issue.
A different culture, a different mentality, but the stats don’t lie. Italy, Spain and Germany are Europe’s three most successful teams at both senior and junior international level whilst still being three of the most successful countries in UEFA club competitions, each having a world class domestic league in which some of the greatest players – local and foreign - have plied their trade.
The English public should take notice of what would happen if a manager dared to field a foreign XI whilst managing a club from Italy, Spain or Germany.
Famously all three have done well when Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Juventus do well and contribute a core of key players to the national team. For England, this remains a dream as it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
If English fans want to see their youth and senior teams win international tournaments, clubs fielding foreign XI’s need to become public scapegoats and be made examples of in the press, on television and on various social media outlets.
The English public cannot accept foreign XI’s anymore, it’s hampered the English national team to the point where the three above-mentioned countries along don’t even consider England as direct rivals for honours at international level.
England are the only country to have a top domestic league but not have a top national team. The other three have found the right balance. England need to take notice.
The culture of accepting clubs fielding foreign XI’s without any outcry from fans, pundits, presenters, journalists and members of rival clubs in England needs to change, for as shown by the other three countries the well-being of the national teams is a national obsession, with local clubs buying into a national interest.
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